This review is going to be a little biased.
I love Psychonauts. I’ve played through the original more times than I can count, and have a deep appreciation for the world and its characters. If it were possible to camp out behind Double Fine’s offices and watch everyone work on Psychonauts 2, I would do so. Yeah, I’m one of those people and I jumped at the opportunity to play Psychonauts In The Rhombus Of Ruin through PlayStation VR. After all, what could be better than being fully immersed in a game world you already know you love?
Truth is, this game is not simply “Psychonauts in VR”. When you put the headset on, you’re stepping into the weird and wonderful world of Psychonauts, but the way you interact with this world and the unique new way you interact with each of these characters creates an incredible new experience.
Movement without movement
If you’re familiar with Psychonauts gameplay, you will be both right at home and somewhat unfamiliar with Rhombus of Ruin. For starters, you aren’t running around solving puzzles with your brainy friends in a third-person view anymore. You aren’t running around in a first-person view either. In fact, you as the player don’t move at all when playing this game.
Putting on your PlayStation VR sends you into Raz, the main character from the original game. You see through his eyes, and you can look around and see the whole scene from his perspective. Instead of using your controller to make Raz walk around, you are using his abilities to help all of your friends survive the Rhombus of Ruin. Each one of your friends has been negatively impacted by this problem, and it’s up to you to jump into their heads and see what they see to solve each puzzle.
In many ways, the gameplay is like an old-school point and click adventure. Raz needs to jump into the different people from each scene to get the full picture, and use his brainy abilities to help each of his friends deal with whatever ultra-heightened emotion is currently affecting them. Essentially, you spend a lot of time looking around and poking at things to solve the puzzles. Remembering the things you see in a scene helps everything go faster, and sometimes it’s just plain fun to sit and look around.
The big thing that is exactly like the original Psychonauts is everyone’s voices. The original voice cast is back to make this game really feel like an extension of the original game, and it works so well. The original voices add some extra nostalgia, but the way spatial audio is used to help with many of the puzzles is impressive.
Adventures in emotion
From a story perspective, Rhombus of Ruin exists at the end of the original Psychonauts. Raz isn’t at camp anymore, and he’s still learning about his past and processing that information. This has always been an emotional journey, but through VR this new game is able to show visual effects of different emotions in different characters, and it creates a powerful storytelling mechanism.
It’s a fun experience, with well-structured puzzles and a great underlying message for empathy.
You transfer yourself into another Psychonaut, and you see panic and fear as colors and shapes alongside this internal monologue for dealing with the current challenge. Sometimes Raz needs to distract, soothe, or encourage his friends using things in the environment around them, which is where the puzzles come into place. Most of the puzzles become an exercise in empathy one way or another, and it leaves you with an even greater appreciation for each of these characters.
While this is exciting from the perspective of a super fan, it’s not always super well explained in the game which can be a problem to more casual players enjoying this experience. The solution to this is an occasional audio clue, usually delivered repeatedly if enough time has passed and the puzzled haven’t been solved to move the game forward. If you get stuck on a particular puzzle, it’s easy to resort to button mashing until something happens. If nothing else, this takes away from the immersion created in the first place.
Psychonauts fans need this
For Psychonauts fans, Rhombus of Ruin is a fantastic love letter and a great teaser for the art styles and in-game engine work you can expect for Psychonauts 2 next year. The game is visually a lot of fun, and honestly worth it just for the nostalgia. If you can play the original Psychonauts with your eyes closed, this game will keep you busy for a little while.
For everyone else, this is a $20 game without a ton of replay value that adds up to maybe 4 hours of gameplay if you take your time to enjoy the world. It’s a fun experience, with well-structured puzzles and a great underlying message for empathy that hits home, which makes this game well worth it for everyone to experience at least once.
- Visually Awesome
- Great Spatial Audio
- Best teleportation mechanic ever
- A little on the short side
- Puzzle tips aren’t always great